Sunday December 6, 2015, marked the official first night of Hanukkah, also spelled Chanukah, signifying the commencement of the Jewish Festival of Lights.
The holiday lasts eight days and will run this year through December 14. Hanukkah commemorates the rededication during the second century B.C. of the Second Temple in Jerusalem, where according to legend Jews had risen up against their Greek-Syrian oppressors in the Maccabean Revolt.
The key ceremony at the center of Hanukkah, is lighting a menorah each night. The eight nights of lighting the branched candelabrum represent the eight nights a one-day supply of oil miraculously lasted for a small band of Jewish people in 165 B.C. fighting to defeat the Greek army.
The appropriate Hebrew greeting during Hanukkah is “Chag Sameach,” (pronounced KHAHG sah-MEHY-ahkh), which literally means “joyous festival.” This is an appropriate greeting for just about any holiday, but it’s especially appropriate for Sukkot, Shavu’ot and Pesach (Passover), which are technically the only festival days.
Jews also celebrate Hanukkah by eating foods fried in oil, such as potato pancakes called latkes. There are also customary games children play, like spinning a dreidel, and they receive chocolate coins called gelt for victory.
“Although a Jewish holiday, the message of Chanukah is universal. A small group of brave men led by Yehuda Ha- Maccabi fought a large powerful army for the right to practice their religion,” said State Senator Jesse Hamilton of the holiday. “Freedom of religion is the pillar of a democratic society. I look forward to seeing all the menorahs on the cars in the neighborhood. It helps bring the holiday spirit to everyone.”